Years ago my dad shared this truth with me about leadership: forgetfulness is one of leadership’s worst enemies.
One of the worst mistakes a leader can make is forgetting their past experiences. They forget what it was like before they were in charge, especially when it comes to making decisions that affect the people following them. It’s called “corporate forgetfulness”.
It’s what plagues executives in plushy desk chairs when they forget what it’s like to be an entry-level worker. They forget the long hours, crappy pay, and the skittish roulette of economical layoffs. When the most powerful person forgets what it’s like to be at someone else’s mercy, that’s when mistakes can be deadliest.
If you’re leading a group of volunteers, remember what it was like to have passion, not paychecks driving your commitment. If your decision as a leader will cripple the passion of your volunteers, then you’ve given in to corporate forgetfulness.
The best way to keep a healthy perspective as a leader is to stay in constant conversation with your team. Don’t ask your team members to do what you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. Stay current with their stress levels, workloads, and time.
Some of the best GMs in the world walk the assembly lines, chat with team members in the break room, and have an open-door policy. It helps them keep a firm grasp on their team’s reality. My best learning moments as a leader are when I get to see a situation from a team member’s perspective.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to remember your past experiences. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself what it’s like to not be the most powerful person on your team. Pull out your old pay stubs from ten, fifteen, twenty years ago and remember how hard you worked to make much less than you make today.
And if you do forget, be humble enough to admit your forgetfulness and ask for honest opinions from your team. What’s their current reality? You might be surprised at what you don’t know they’re facing.
Don’t forget your past experiences. You owe it to your team to make frequent trips down memory lane.